AA Sprint Series –
Getting Started, Then Moving Up the Ranks!
Truth is, I don’t know jack shit. I’m 45 years old (wife says I look more like 60), placed 2nd or 3rd in a few races, and now Michael Maddess thinks I’m ‘qualified’ to write an article on training and getting ready for the “ultimate” trail running series in HK! Well, I won’t pretend. All I can do is share my story of how I got started in the Sprint Series (3 years ago), and how I slowly migrated my way up the ‘results list’ from somewhere around 25-30th place … to last year where I finished 3rd overall.
Now if you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you fall into one of two categories. Either you’re just getting started (and looking for some ‘basic’ tips to help you survive!) OR you’ve done a few Sprints in the past but deep down inside you know you could be higher in the rankings! Either way, I hear ‘ya.......I been there. I’m still there!
So, what works for me?
In no particular order, these are the basic ‘principles’ I follow to get ready for the Sprint Series:
#1. Do a Recce
Now this may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people that show up on race day (for a mini “adventure” trail race with short river sections) … and they’ve never taken the time to scout the trail. Bottom line is, if you want to do well you need to know the course. For slower runners, knowing the course beforehand will cut 15-20 minutes off your overall time (at least). For the faster runners, I’d say 5-10 minutes. Running the trail in advance will give you a good mental map of the course which translates into a smart and effective race strategy.
#2. Quality over Quantity
When it comes to training and putting in the miles, my personal philosophy is “less is more.” In fact when I tell people I only train 2x per week (Wed & Sat), either they don’t believe me, or they think I’m bragging. But for me the number of miles is not as important as the quality of those miles. So although I only run twice per week, I make sure those two runs are:
- run at close to race pace
- involve some big hills where I really push myself
- done exclusively on trails
I find if I push myself really hard (and finish my run exhausted), then I need at least one or two days to fully recover. Which is paramount! Then I’m ready for my second run for the week …
Of course this type of training is only suited to the shorter trail races like the Sprint Series (10-15kms).
#3. Travel Light
The Sprint Series is just that … a sprint! Only 11-13 kilometers. As such, you DO NOT NEED 3 liters of water, 6 gels, 2 bananas, a first aid kit, a mobile, a raincoat, a nail clipper, and/or any other piece of gear! Keep it simple. Travel light. Your time will reflect it. Oh, and ditto for the shoes. Try to find a LIGHT pair of trail running shoes. (Personally, I do all trail races in my super-light road runners.)
#4. Build Mental Toughness
Or in other words, develop your ability to ignore pain. How do you do that? No easy way, really. But try this. The next time you’re grinding your way up a hillside (and your thigh muscles feel like they’re sizzling on a BBQ), just ask yourself: “Can I endure this pain and keep moving?” Of course you can! The human body is an amazing machine. Just keep pushing it! It’ll get easier.
#5. Nurture the Tummy
When it comes to food and fuel, I’m a minimalist. That means I try to get away with eating and drinking as little as possible before and during a race. I figure the more food and fluid I’ve got bouncing around in my belly, the less efficient I am. Of course this approach doesn’t always work, you’ve gotta get the balance just right, but I think the basic idea is sound. In fact there was an article in Outside magazine a couple months ago (“The 6 Biggest Nutrition Mistakes”) and one of the mistakes they highlighted was eating too many solid foods directly before OR during a race. As they state in the article: “Solid foods are typically less nutrient-rich than liquid fuel, plus they take more energy to process. You can perform almost indefinitely on liquid fuel.”
Other nutrition tidbits to consider:
- hydrate heavily the day before a race (make sure all those red blood cells are bathing in liquid and not sticking together. Remember, it’s the red blood cells that are delivering the O2!)
- eat your pre-race meal at least 2-3 hours before the start gun goes off
- avoid eating any solid foods right before the race (skip that banana!)
- try refueling during the race with gels and water only
#6. Massage Thy Muscles
Little secret …… a year ago I would have told you “a massage” is for pansies! My mistake. Over the past 12 months or so I’ve learned the importance (and effectiveness) of massaging my own muscles the night before a race. That’s right, I massage myself! But legs only! I spend 15-20 minutes massaging my thigh and calf muscles, making sure the fibers are all loose and soft and there are no knots. Most times I don’t feel like I need a massage, but once I start kneading the muscles I discover a lot of tightness and knotting. The mini massage works wonders. Give it a try!
That’s about it.
Of course you know the next step … get online and register!
See you at the starting line!